Think injuries are just about physical pain? Think again!
Plantar Fasciitis (PF) is a physical condition affecting more than 1 million individuals yearly in the US, including elite and recreational athletes. This forbearing injury is now recognized as a degenerative irritation of the plantar fascia and can be a chronic condition with both physical and psychological repercussions. Literature pertaining to the psychological impact of Plantar Fasciitis on athletes is limited; however, the undeniable relationship between chronic pain and mental health concerns is well documented.
Most commonly, overuse and incorrect training increases the odds of developing PF. Petraglia, Ramazzina, and Constantino (2017) reported that the incidence of Plantar Fasciitis in runners ranges from approximately 4.5% to 10% and is the third most frequent running-related musculoskeletal injury following medial tibia stress syndrome and Achilles tendinopathy. Listed symptoms of PF often focus on the physical components (pain), while the psychological aspects are overlooked or neglected. Emotional responses to injury may also include sadness, anxiety, depressed mood, isolation, irritation, anger, frustration, lack of motivation, changes in appetite, sleep disturbance, withdrawal, and disengagement.
Responses to injury and/or chronic pain vary with each individual. While it is common to have some of the aforementioned responses, studies show that those suffering from chronic pain may be three times more likely to experience a mood or anxiety disorder. PF can limit an individual’s physical mobility/exercise, which in turn can result in avoidance of social, physical, and occupational activities (out of fear of worsening symptoms or re-injury), as well as feelings of helplessness or hopelessness. The resultant psychological response and avoidant behavior leads to a cycle of inactivity, disuse, and symptoms of depression and anxiety. The bi-directional influence can become a vicious cycle that is difficult to break (Hooton, 2016).
In conclusion, Plantar Fasciitis is a physical condition with a potentially significant impact on one’s emotional and psychological well-being. It is important for those dealing with PF, and their families, to be aware of both the physical and mental difficulties associated. Additionally, clients may or may not report symptoms of depression and anxiety, therefore the medical community should routinely question patients about symptoms for proper diagnosis and treatment. This may include a physician, physical therapist, pain specialist, and a psychologist or other mental health professional. Cognitive-behavioral, behavioral, acceptance-based therapies, and mindfulness techniques are a few of the methods used to treat symptoms of both depression and anxiety related to chronic pain and/or injury. So, if you or someone you know is confronting Plantar Fasciitis and experiencing irregular dispositions there’s an explanation for why, and better yet, a reasonable solution!
Author: Michelle Montero, Psy.D. Licensed Clinical and Sport Psychologist
Alchemy Performance Consulting
4737 N Clark St.
Chicago, IL 60640